The Indian is a worldwide renowned humanitarian peace ambassador and meditation teacher. The two organizations founded by him, The Art of Living Foundation“ and „International Association for Human Values“ are active in 152 countries in the world. His program for stress reduction for managers is taught amongst others at the Harvard Business School.
Q1 Mr. Shankar, last summer you spent three days negotiating with the FARC rebels and achieved a peace agreement - after years of fight in Colombia. How does one negotiate with rebels?
SHANKAR Well, it was a challenge. But if you meet someone without prejudices and listen with an open mind, then the people will feel it. I have this feeling that in many negotiations it is not heard anymore what the other side actually wants.
Q2 You obviously did not only listen, but you also spoke.
SHANKAR I told the rebels that I see them also as victims. And that I think they actually fight for a good cause, because they want to empower the poor. But I condemn their violent methods! Therefore I told them: Adopt the principles of Gandhi to demonstrate peacefully.
Stand up for the poor like this, and everyone will agree. And with that I brought them to the table.
Q3 You also meditated with the FARC. How relaxed was that?
SHANKAR Excellent! During the negotiations I once said: Come on, let us have a break, how about a short meditation? They all joined in, most of them for the first time. The leaders of the rebels where amazed and want that all their associates learn this method now.
Q4 In the western world meditation is not a central part in business life…
SHANKAR … but it becomes more and more important! On the 21st of June when I led a session for the United Nations, general secretary Ban Ki-moon said afterwards that one should meditate before every negotiation.
Q5 You said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the people need to get rid of their negative emotions like anger, rage and greed. But isn’t it that exactly these emotions have often brought many top managers to where they are today?
SHANKAR A little of that is alright. But if you cannot control your anger and your rage, but rather get controlled by it - then you will get into problems.
Aggression works only for a short time and takes a lot of energy. It is not a permanent solution, but to use like a toothpick – use it once and then dispose it.
Q6 You founded the World Forum for Ethics in Business around 10 years ago. Why does a meditation teacher and humanitarian activist step into the business world?
SHANKAR Many people are on a search for a sense, also in the business world. Nevertheless there are a lot of businessmen today, for whom making quick money is the most important thing. That is comprehensible. But we want to tell them: Quick money could also mean quick fall. We want to show them that you can also be successful and grow with ethical businesses. Sadly, many do not understand this yet.
Q7 Where do you see at the moment the greatest challenges for managers?
SHANKAR The self-management is missed out! Most of the businessmen are trying to organize and optimize everything around them, but not themselves. But if you cannot handle yourself and your emotions, you are harming the team und yourself. Stress and a lack of self-management are destroying today’s managers.
Q8 In the last year you traveled to 40 countries and rushed from one appointment into the next one. Don’t you ever feel stressed?
SHANKAR My techniques are working, I am the best example.
Q9 So you always enjoy going to work?
SHANKAR What I do is not work, but it is my mission. And a mission is always fun!
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was interviewed by Helene Endres, editor of the Harvard Business Manager.
Courtsey : Harvard Business Manager Magazine, Germany edition